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Populism and Inequality

Instructors: Sarah Pearlman, Professor of Economics, Vassar College and Karl Trautman, Instructor, Department of Political Science, Central Maine Community College

Course Description: During the past few decades income inequality has risen in the United States while economic mobility has declined. Thus not only is the U.S. more unequal than before, it is more difficult to move up the income ladder. Meanwhile rhetoric around populism has increased, and populist politicians have gained electorally both in the U.S. and elsewhere. Interestingly, this does not always translate into increased demands for redistributive policies. In this class we will explore these phenomena and the potential links between them. We will close by examining the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on inequality and populism. Each topic will include an empirical component, as we will discuss how data are used to quantify and analyze problems. These discussions will highlight how the increasing access and use of large datasets has improved our understanding of economic and political trends in the country.

Race and Politics in the United States and Beyond

Instructor: Taneisha Means, Assistant Professor of Political Science, Vassar College

Course Description: This course is fundamentally about race as a social construction globally and the historical and continuing importance of race in politics. Among other topics, we will consider and discuss how race is defined and understood and how race shapes and is shaped by political and legal institutions. We will also explore how race influences self and group identities, political attitudes and opinions, social and political lives, and political behavior. While we will mainly examine race in the United States context, we will also study the way race works and has political and social implications in other parts of the world, including Africa, Asia, Europe, and Latin America. In the course, we emphasize taking a multidisciplinary approach to explore race and politics and drawing from the fields of critical race and ethnic studies, history, law, philosophy, political science, and sociology. As this is a social science course that relies on the consideration and analysis of evidence to reach understandings and conclusions, we will frequently engage with and utilize social science data, including qualitative and quantitative data and primary and secondary sources.

Reading and Writing the Short Story

Instructor: Heather Ostman, Professor of English, SUNY Westchester Community College

Course Description: This course is for students who are interested in learning the craft of storytelling through reading and writing short fiction. This course will build on foundations of close reading, analysis, and in-depth discussions of published short stories by well-known and lesser-known authors from a diverse multitude of places and times. Students will examine exceptional short stories for their central craft elements, which they will also draw upon as they write their own stories. This course will introduce the major fundamentals of story writing, including plot, conflict, characterization, setting, narrative point-of-view, dialogue, as well as figurative language, tone, diction, and more. There will be some time set aside for discussion of the historic origins of the short story and its significance for marginalized writers through the last two centuries. Each week, students will write their own stories by learning how to draft and effectively revise their work, as well as contribute to discussions about each other’s stories in warm, constructive peer review. 

How to Live on a Changing Earth?

Instructors: Alison Keimowitz, Associate Professor of Chemistry, Vassar College, and Osman Nemli, Assistant Professor of Philosophy, Vassar College

Course Description: Every decision we make, from what to eat to where to live, has an environmental consequence.  How do these consequences fit into the global-scale changes occurring on Earth?  How can we make these decisions in an informed and ethical manner?  This course will examine environmental ethics and issues of global environmental change in the framework of planetary boundaries and environmental justice with a focus on solutions. Specific topics addressed include: various ethical theories used to approach changing environments; different metrics and methods used to study changing climate and environmental circumstances; how to sort and adjudicate competing interests; public policy options and advocacy initiatives as well as biodiversity loss; climate change; and food and development.